Elise Blouet is an art restorer and curator. For Cire Trudon she made the leather sheath for the Russian Leather candle that was exclusively created for Thomas Erber’s Curiosity Chest OR Cabinet of Curiosities. Interview.
• In your career, how did you end up working with leather ?
At the beginning of my career, I was more passionate about metal and often restored antique armor. While working on 16th century armor at the Chillon Chateau in Switzerland, I had to solve a problem that consisted of metal pieces attached by leather strips. It was love at first site … Since then, working with this relatively little-known material has become my major focus. • Pourquoi aimez-vous travailler le cuir ?
• Why do you like working with leather ?
Leather is a noble, warm, timeless, almost sensual material. Its secrets of fabrication, texture, odor and use (from a rustic plow to an extremely refined leather bag) mean one has to learn how to understand - even “get to know” it - before working with it.
• What type of leather do you prefer to work with ?
Old leathers, of course : oil-tanned leathers tanned with aluminum, vegetable-tanned leathers, buffalo leathers… Today it’s rare to find a tanner who can produce leathers with exceptional quality.
My current preference is Russian leather because of its unusual grain, dense fibers, supple hand and, especially, its scent … I obstinately researched this leather for a number of years before I found its “recipe” that had been lost for over a century.
• What is your favorite leather object ?
An ancient presbytery’s gilded leather wall hangings in the tiny village of Hocquingen in Northern France. The sitting room walls, entirely covered in a gilded black and gold leather from the 18th century, make the room feel timeless. I was privileged to restore it in 2013 and since then, I dream of covering my library walls with leather !
• Do you wear or carry something in leather ?
My bag, but it’s not just any bag ! It’s a Swiss army nurse’s bag with many compartments that you’ll never see in a store window since it’s totally out of fashion ! And of course I also had a belt made in Russian leather …
• What did the Russian Leather candle inspire for you ?
The candle’s fragrance is the quintessential scent of true Russian leather and picks up its woody, animal, smoky notes. It draws me into the Siberian steppes during the era of Catherine the Great. I see myself in Saint Petersburg, sitting in a leather armchair. I want to reread my friend Sylvain Tesson’s book “Berezina” in front of the fireplace. This fragrance evokes cigars, lapsang souchong tea, adventure and intimacy … • What was your process to create the leather that covers it ? It was very difficult technically. Glass is an inert material and leather is an alive material that moves, expands and contracts. I had to do a few trials to get the result I was looking for, choosing the right part of the skin to “play” with the leather’s suppleness. How did I do it? It took a lot of patience, strictness, thoroughness … and a passion for work well done…
• What time of day do you light a Russian Leather candle in your home ?
In the evening, of course, in front of the fireplace with good friends. But also as background “music” during the day to subliminally suggest the idea of dreams or escape when I come home.